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Goodbye to all that

Essendon's Dyson Heppell.

Essendon's Dyson Heppell. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The AFL is used to being unable to please much of its public all the time, or in some cases, any time. And never is that more the case than when it comes to fixturing.

An uneven draw, in which teams play only five rivals twice and the other dozen just once, creates a virtual handicap system in itself. Throw in contractual obligations to various venues for certain ''blockbusters'' and the difficulty factor increases again.

These days, in addition, there's the matter of the mid-season bye, which, judging by the club and player reaction currently being assessed before it goes to the AFL Commission, seems more than likely to become two byes per club in 2014 rather than the current one.

And that could open a whole new can of worms - for a fan base that has been getting itchy feet these past couple of weeks, reduced to six games per round, and more importantly, the same clubs agitating for an extra week off.

Because recent history indicates strongly that the matter of exactly when you have your break is significant, with the 2011 season - when with 17 teams at least one club per round had a week off - providing an interesting case study.

When Gold Coast entered the competition (the year before Greater Western Sydney), the AFL entered territory it hadn't known (an uneven number of teams) since Adelaide became part of the AFL in 1991, and for four years gave us a 15-team league. It decided to stagger the byes for 2011 as best it could, in a 24-round season having 19 rounds in which just one team had a break, and another five in which three sides sat it out.

What became apparent was that to have the break around mid-season proved perfect, but early on or late in the piece was a significant disadvantage. Indeed, over the first 13 rounds, and 14 games in which a side coming off a week's break took on a team that had played through, the side that had had the weekend off won just two.

That changed dramatically, however, in the cold and wet of late June and July. Between rounds 14 and 18, of seven games played between a rested side and one that played through, the team with the rest won six. And that was turned on its head again in the lead-up to finals, when the break only seemed to disrupt any momentum. From round 19 to 24, there were eight such games, the team that had played through earning seven wins over sides that had spelled.

They're pretty lopsided counts. And ones which the bye formula these past two seasons - of three weeks of just six games between rounds 11 and 13 - seem to have addressed.

Last year, there were 12 games played during and immediately after the bye rounds in which a side coming off a week's break faced up to one that had played on, the results an even split of 6-6. And not one of them was a result that didn't go the way form indicated it should.

The fixture also managed to minimise the lopsidedness of preparation, with several sides both coming off the byes playing each other.

Last week, there were four games involving a rested side and one that had played on, with three victories to those that had spelled. Again, none of those results was unexpected, though Hawthorn's strong finish against Carlton, and the Western Bulldogs' much better second half against Collingwood after looking likely to be humiliated indicated they'd both appreciated the break.

From an aesthetics point of view, meanwhile, the AFL has always been on a hiding to nothing when it comes to mid-season.

When eight games were the norm, it tried virtually every combination of games over a two-week period. There were several years with either a 5-3 or 6-2 split. In 2004, it scheduled just the one game in week two of break-time, mainly in reaction to the outcry after the previous year, in which there was a complete week's break for all 16 teams. That is something those now moaning about the allegedly dull past couple of weeks would do well to remember. And when it comes to maintaining interest in the AFL competition overall, the past couple of weeks have hardly been duds.

Indeed, AFL general manager of broadcasting, scheduling and legal affairs, Simon Lethlean, points out that last Saturday night's Essendon-Gold Coast clash at Etihad Stadium was the first Saturday night game this season to attract more than a million TV viewers.

''We think the three rounds of six games is the best model for maintaining the momentum of the season, better than the other combinations we've tried,'' he says.

''There's a lot of things to consider, requirements like two clubs not playing each other twice before round 11, in amongst all the other factors, like venue availability, player welfare and club requests, and in which we can still minimise the inequities.''

If the AFL Commission does go with the push for two byes in 2014, the most likely solution is to start the season a week earlier by scaling back the duration of the pre-season NAB Cup.

While cricket obligations have previously limited the number of venues that can be used in March, AFL football's involvement with Adelaide Oval and the new lights at Geelong's Simonds Stadium have offered some greater flexibility.

If the two byes are to be introduced, the most likely arrangement would be two lots of the current mid-season schedule, with three lots of six matches to be played between rounds 7-9 and again between rounds 14-16.

But if the clubs and players lobbying for an extra week off win their campaign, they'd be well advised to then bone up on the recent history of the impact of the bye on AFL football. Because the numbers say it's not just getting a rest that counts, but just as much when you get it.

3 comments

  • Particularly irritating are players who call for a shorter H&A^ season, with some demanding a 17- or 18-game season, yet never accompany such demands with suggestions of what commensurate paycut they would happily take. (Nor how they would productively fill in even more spare time.)

    Nor any inkling of how corporate support for the game would be cut back, let alone the cruel decrease in the pleasures of football to millions of members, barrackers and fans.

    Stop sooking and grow up. Or eff off.

    ^ Don't mind "regular season" now and then for a bit of variety in sentence or paragraph structure, but our term is "Home and Away season". (And, no, this observation is NOT predicated on some brain-dead PC anti-Americanism.)

    Commenter
    40 Degrees S
    Date and time
    June 23, 2013, 2:09PM
    • Back again - forgot to ask this.

      Whose bright idea was it to start AFL matches within 30 minutes of sunset in the week of the shortest day of the year? What part of "maximising attendances" does this drongo not understand?

      Commenter
      Leonard Colquhoun
      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 4:19PM
      • Whilst only some clubs pay each other twice, the competion will never be even/equal....always going to be lopsided!

        Get rid of NAB Cup or what ever it is called, play each other twice, the comp will then be even, clubs can also start resting players....PS there supposed to be fit anyway, not all payers play 4 quarters anyway.

        If players want time off/byes, then start bringing in performance rates, or penalties for non-performance.

        Commenter
        uneik
        Date and time
        June 23, 2013, 6:11PM
        Comments are now closed

        AFL 2015

        Round 1
        Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
        CAR 78 vs RIC 105 19:20MCG
        Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
        MEL 115 vs GCF 89 13:40MCG
        SYD 72 vs ESS 60 16:35ANZ
        BRI 74 vs COL 86 19:20G
        WBU 97 vs WCE 87 19:20ES
        Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK 78 vs GWS 87 13:10ES
        ADE 140 vs NTH 63 15:20Adelaide Oval
        FRE 75 vs PTA 68 18:40Domain Stadium
        Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
        HAW 123 vs GEE 61 15:20MCG
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        Round 2
        Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        WCE 131 vs CAR 62 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        RIC 66 vs WBU 85 13:45MCG
        GWS 101 vs MEL 56 14:10SO
        COL 63 vs ADE 90 16:35ES
        GCF 76 vs STK 104 19:20MS
        PTA 44 vs SYD 92 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
        GEE 60 vs FRE 104 13:10SS
        ESS 78 vs HAW 76 15:20MCG
        NTH 133 vs BRI 51 16:40ES
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        Round 3
        Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        COL 140 vs STK 66 19:50MCG
        Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        CAR 84 vs ESS 105 13:45MCG
        ADE 80 vs MEL 55 14:10Adelaide Oval
        SYD 111 vs GWS 90 16:35SCG
        NTH 105 vs PTA 113 19:20ES
        BRI 58 vs RIC 137 19:20G
        Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
        HAW 127 vs WBU 57 13:10AS
        GEE 105 vs GCF 96 15:20SS
        WCE 81 vs FRE 111 16:40Domain Stadium
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        Round 4
        Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs MEL 19:50MCG
        Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK vs CAR 11:10NZ
        ESS vs COL 14:40MCG
        GWS vs GCF 17:40SO
        PTA vs HAW 19:40Adelaide Oval
        FRE vs SYD 20:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs WCE 13:10G
        GEE vs NTH 15:20SS
        WBU vs ADE 16:40ES
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        Round 5
        Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
        Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
        SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
        GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
        NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
        WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
        STK vs ESS 15:20ES
        ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
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        Round 6
        Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
        Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
        WBU vs STK 14:10ES
        GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
        GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
        MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
        FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
        PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
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        Round 7
        Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
        Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
        HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
        CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
        SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
        WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
        RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
        BRI vs PTA 16:40G
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        Round 8
        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
        Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK vs WCE 13:45ES
        GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
        GCF vs COL 16:35MS
        HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
        FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
        MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
        PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
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        Round 9
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
        MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
        WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
        RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
        ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs STK 13:10G
        COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
        WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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        Round 10
        Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
        GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
        ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
        PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
        NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
        STK vs HAW 16:40ES
        Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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        Round 11
        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
        WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
        NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
        Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
        STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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        Round 12
        Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
        Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
        GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
        WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
        Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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        Round 13
        Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
        FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
        Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
        Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
        BRI vs ADE 16:35G
        STK vs WBU 19:20ES
        Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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        Round 14
        Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
        Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
        Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
        GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
        WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
        MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
        Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs STK 13:10ES
        ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
        FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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        Round 15
        Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
        Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
        WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
        NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
        WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
        HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
        BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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        Round 16
        Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
        Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
        GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
        COL vs WCE 16:35ES
        SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
        FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
        PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
        STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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        Round 17
        Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
        Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
        ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
        RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
        ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
        BRI vs NTH 19:20G
        Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        WBU vs COL 13:10ES
        MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
        WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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        Round 18
        Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
        Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
        COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
        SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
        CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
        GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
        Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
        ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
        FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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        Round 19
        Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
        COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
        WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
        BRI vs GCF 16:35G
        GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
        WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
        GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
        STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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        Round 20
        Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
        Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
        NTH vs STK 14:10BA
        PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
        GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
        BRI vs CAR 19:20G
        Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
        WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
        FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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        Round 21
        Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
        Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
        COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
        GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
        GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
        STK vs GEE 19:20ES
        ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
        CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
        WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
        Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
        HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
        NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
        ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
        GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
        Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
        STK vs SYD 15:20ES
        FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
        COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
        RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
        HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
        GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
        SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
        MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
        BRI vs WBU 00:00G
        PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
        WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        AFL 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D % Pts
        Adelaide Crows 3 3 0 0 171.27 12
        Sydney Swans 3 3 0 0 141.75 12
        Fremantle 3 3 0 0 138.76 12
        Hawthorn 3 2 1 0 166.33 8
        Richmond 3 2 1 0 139.37 8
        Collingwood 3 2 1 0 125.65 8
        GWS Giants 3 2 1 0 113.47 8
        Essendon 3 2 1 0 104.74 8
        View all
         
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